As the lights in the school auditorium at Stryker dimmed, audience members found each of their seats to be a golden ticket of sorts. As the lights dimmed, and the curtains rose, the crowd was treated to a free tour of Willy Wonka’s magical chocolate factory from the comfort that can only be felt on their side of the fourth wall.
They weren’t alone on this trip, however. The holders of five tangible golden tickets, Mike Teavee, Violet Bearuragarde, Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, and, of course, Charlie Bucket wandered about the rooms of the factory with their respective guardians, led by the zany and mysterious Mr. Wonka himself.
From the opening scene to the final curtain call, the Stryker Drama Club’s production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory never failed to charm those in attendance. Mixing bright and colorful set pieces with enthusiastic, imaginative acting, the play successfully creates a fun and believable atmosphere. This allowed for the audience to “see” some of the more grandiose wonders of the factory that the stage crew simply couldn’t recreate with the limited resources available to a high school drama club.
A spirited performance by Sterling Wisniewski as Willy Wonka served as the lynch pin of the show. His every interaction with his cast mates was playful in nature, grounding the production in good-natured humor. In particular, the ignorantly nonchalant manner in which Wisniewski casually explains the potentially horrific fates of those children who fell victim to their own temptations within his factory’s walls to their parents takes scenes that should disgust audiences and transforms them into some of the most delightful moments of the play.
Also standing out amongst a wide array of talented actors was Sierrah Whitman. Playing the part of spoiled daddy’s girl Veruca Salt, Whitman thrived in her first appearance on the stage. Somewhere between the thick snobbish accent she emulated and her big mannerisms throughout the show, even while standing in the background of a scene, Whitman really sells the character quite well.
In her brief time on stage, freshman Madi Myers shined as well, playing the mother of Augustus Gloop, the heavy-set little boy who falls into the chocolate river. Chasing Isaiha Freeman, the sixth grader who took on the role of Augustus, all over the stage, fussing and fawning over him, Myers commanded the attention of the audience when given the opportunity. Besides, her scene chasing Wisniewski all over the stage was more than a little funny.
The Oompa Loompas were played by students in grades two through six, and would march down the aisles at the end of each scene. Ascending to the stage, they would sing the Oompa Loompa song, followed by an individual member of the group reciting a poem on the fate of the ticket holder who fell just before.
Directors Beth Morr and Tiffany Korzan steered this production in a light-hearted, comical direction, reminiscent of the 1971 movie starring the great Gene Wilder. Almost all of their actors, no matter how small their role seemed, were always doing something, contributing to the scene. The balance between physical comedy and witty dialogue delivery was also impressive, as none of it seemed contrived.
Overall, those who made it out to the play were surely happy with what they saw. After all, just like Charlie, they had the Chocolate Factory handed to them.